MLB's latest step to crack down on the use of foreign substances for a competitive advantage began Monday with umpires checking each pitcher as they came off the mound during games across the country.
A's starter Frankie Montas was the first member of Oakland's pitching staff to undergo the inspection after the bottom of the first inning against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Field.
Relievers Cam Bedrosian, Deolis Guerra and Domingo Acevedo, making his MLB debut, were the other A's pitchers checked by umpires during Oakland's 8-3 loss to the Rangers.
"It probably went better than I expected," A's manager Bob Melvin told reporters on a video conference call after the game. "The umpires really made it look easy and had good banter with the relievers. You could see them kind of joking around and smiling with them. It didn't feel like a situation that they were being frisked or something like that. I think the umpires made it pretty seamless today. I thought it went better than I would have expected."
Montas, who didn't have his best stuff and allowed eight earned runs in 5 2/3 innings against the Rangers, told reporters he wasn't bothered by the frequent inspections.
"I don't mind it to be honest," Montas said. "They want to check, they can check. I'm clean, you know. That don't bother me at all."
Informed that his spin rates were down against the Rangers compared to his season averages, Montas cited the warm weather in Arlington.
"I mean, it was really humid," Montas said. "It was humid. My hand was sweaty, I got sweat all over my palm and it makes the ball a little slippery ... I don't really check spin rate."
According to Baseball Savant, the spin rates on all four of Montas' pitches were down by a noticeable margin: His four-seam fastball was down 157.0 RPM, his sinker was down 134.0 RPM, his slider was down 195.0 RPM and his splitter was down 269.0 RPM.
But Montas wasn't the only pitcher in the A's-Rangers game with a reduced spin rate. In fact, seven of the nine pitchers to appear in Monday's contest, including Montas, had spin rates below their season average. Acevedo doesn't have prior MLB data to reference. Texas reliever Brett Martin was the only pitcher with spin rates above his season average.
A's catcher Sean Murphy told reporters that the checks by the umpires went as he had anticipated and that all four of Oakland's pitchers passed the inspection.
This was just Day 1 of MLB's new policy and while it seemed odd to see the umpires meeting with the pitchers as they walked back to the dugout, the league is doing this for the good of the game.